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Émile Torres is a philosopher and historian whose work focuses on existential threats to humanity. During this 2-hour conversation with Émile, we cover a variety of exciting topics such as escatology and teleology; determinism and inevitability; Kurzweil’s timeline and the ultimate end of the Universe; ChatGPT and AGI; the Rapture and Émile’s Baptist upbringing; watching out for our own biases and blindspots; Transhumanism, Religion, and Eugenics; the problems with defining, measuring, and boasting about (your) intelligence; Nick Bostom’s racism, narcissism, integrity, and dubious math in papers such as Astronomical Waste; the nature and danger of existential risks; the dangers of (Radical) Longtermism.
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Émile Torres’s work has centered around a single theme: eschatology, whether religious, secular, or scientific. Recently, they have focused on the nature and causes of human extinction, its ethical implications, and the history of the idea.
Torres used to write for the Future of Life Institute and was previously a research assistant to Ray Kurzweil and an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Émile spent some time at Harvard University and earned a master’s degree in Neuroscience from Brandeis University, although their background is the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of science/biology. They are currently a Ph.D. candidate at Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany. Their forthcoming book Human Extinction: A History of the Science and Ethics of Annihilation (Routledge), is a sprawling work of intellectual history, ethics, and population axiology. Torres is teaching a course this semester titled “The Ethics of Human Extinction,” which may be the first ever on this topic.
Émile has published in scholarly journals like Erkenntnis, Futures, Bioethics, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Foresight, Metaphilosophy, Inquiry, and the South African Journal of Philosophy, among others, and a chapter on algocracy was included in the Amazon bestseller Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security. They have also published articles in popular media like TIME, Slate, The Washington Post, Aeon, Motherboard, Nautilus, Free Inquiry, Truthout, Counterpunch, Common Dreams, The Progressive, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Torres is currently a contributing writer at Salon.
Their previous book (2017) was Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks, which included a foreword from Lord Martin Rees. In 2019, Émile Torres spent several months as a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, and have given talks at the Future of Humanity Institute (at the University of Oxford), Princeton University, and the Chalmers University of Technology, to name a few.
They have appeared on many podcasts and interviewed about human extinction, artificial intelligence, and related topics on BBC radio, NowThis, and Al Jazeera TV (live). Torres is scheduled to appear in a forthcoming docu-series streaming on Netflix about secular apocalyptic scenarios.
On a personal note, Émile Torres is passionate about alleviating global poverty and have pledged to give away everything they make over $35k a year. In a previous life, they were a musician and audio engineer and have sold a bunch of songs to MTV.